Game of Thrones understands 8-year-old us. 8-year-old us would sit down begrudgingly for dinner and fork through our broccoli and mashed potatoes, placing ever-so-tiny spoonfuls in our mouths and disgustedly chew until Mom yells at us and threatens to send us to bed without dessert. Wait, no dessert?! How dare you, Mom?! We would eat as much of the green mess as necessary, making sure to let Mom know how painful it was, until we reached our gloriously decadent goal: Dessert. ‘No One’ is a whopping bowlful of chocolate chip ice cream (or whatever you lactose intolerant heathens would prefer) slathered in chocolate fudge and topped with rainbow sprinkles. As much as we’d like to think this is all we’d ever need, we’d be dead wrong (and diabetic) but hot damn if it isn’t the best thing for us at the time.
If Game of Thrones‘ version of ice cream is blood and decapitations and face-rippings and f–ks and c–ts and gross sexuality and Tyrion drinking, ‘No One’ sent us into a sugar coma. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are so fully in control of the ship they’re sailing, they completely understand the ebbs and flows of a ten-episode season. After the beautiful chemistry of writing, directing and thematics that was ‘The Broken Man’, where some might wrongly accuse the show for having “nothing happen”, they understand the confectionary element that has gotten the show to the mighty highs it currently enjoys. However, just as sour patch kids will leave your teeth rotten (a theory I’m constantly experimenting and currently believing to be an old wives’ tale), ‘No One’ doesn’t quite hold up against close examination.
FULL SPOILERS BELOW!!!
After Arya was brutally stabbed by the Waif, we find her receiving comfort from Lady Crane. In what was the biggest logic jump of the episode and maybe even the series, we’re led to believe Arya not only survives but needs just a few bandages to make her surely struggling internal organs all better. Sure. Fine. Give her some Milk of the Poppy and let her rest it off.
Arya also gives us our first glimpse into what life might be like after the wars of this world as she discusses wanting to travel the worlds and see what’s West of Westeros. This is the show coming toward its endgame and shedding rare light on the world outside our map lines which we so rarely get acknowledgment of in ancient fantasy stories.
As a good plan usually goes, Arya’s gets immediately nixed as the Waif returns, brutally murdering Lady Crane and chasing Arya through the streets and back alleys of Braavos*. As the chase scene borders on comedic and goes on for far too long, it ends with the compelling moment of Arya battling her enemy in the dark where she initially bested her. After all of this House of Black and White business, Arya seems to leave it just as she arrived, only now fully resolved. After she places the Waif’s bloody and unclean face-skin into the Hall of Faces and gets Jaqen H’gar’s stoner approval, Arya heads off toward Winterfell and her birthright. It makes me wonder how much of this story was actually necessary. Surely if Benioff and Weiss weren’t beholden to adapting George Martin’s novels and knew the proceedings from the get-go, things wouldn’t have played out as they did here. Nonetheless, we’re looking at some Stark reunion in the future.
*Seriously, her injuries should have sidelined her much sooner than they did.
In what I like to call “The Mountains of Madness” we are also treated to some deliciously graphic Clegane action in ‘No One’. The Cleganes were always known for their brutal violence and now that we have both of them born again*, we get to see just how nasty they can make a human body. With The Mountain aka Gregor aka Zombie Mountain as Cersei’s one and only tether to staying alive in the Red Keep, we’re treated to a truly gruesome moment in which Gregor single-handedly rips the head off a Sparrow. My only gripe with the scene is the drama isn’t paid off as Lancel Lannister gets to still leave with his face attached to his body. Why do we need Lancel? He’s proven to be a flake and a coward and a character with no interesting drama, outside of being Cersei’s previous incestuous booty call. He should’ve died here, no question.
*Noticing a theme with this season?
Cersei’s plight, however, becomes more complicated as her corrupted son places hold on trials to be held by combat. Cersei will not get to stand behind her Mountain as an undoubted death sentence gets placed upon her and her own son will be to blame. In a season where King’s Landing has become the least compelling plot thread, this instance of policy determining outcomes and not violence is a real revelation for the show. Rarely does law, no matter how corrupt or unfair, get to decide the ways of the land and not a sword. It’s going to be interesting to see how Cersei can finagle her way out of this one*.
*I bet Margaery has something to do with it.
On the more compelling side of the Mountains of Madness, we have Sandor “The Hound” Clegane making his rounds of retribution. Sandor has quickly become the most interesting and quizzical character of the season with his sudden re-entry. Why is he back? What does he mean to the Brotherhood Without Banners? Does he really have a semblance of a conscience now? The fact that The Hound is seeking revenge for Ian McShane’s death shows he has feelings and a compass for right and wrong. We’ve seen evidence of this previously but it’s now cemented in his psyche.
After brutally and awesomely dispatching most members responsible, The Hound comes across the Brotherhood at long last which is hanging the rest of its wayward members for killing the missionaries in the field. In one of the most comically brutal scenes of the series, The Hound argues politics over the executions and surprisingly doesn’t force his way into getting exactly what he wants. Character development in action! Sitting down with Beric Dondarrion and male Red Priest, Thoros of Myr, The Hound is suddenly thrust into importance as maybe the savior the Brotherhood has been searching for all along. Wouldn’t it be great if Sandor Clegane is the savior of the world by the end of the series and not a traditional hero like Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen? We’ll see…
What I’m most unsure of is just how Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth will end up together after ‘No One’. I don’t actually believe that but in all seriousness this episode truly believes the weight with which to carry the reunion of these two foes-cum-pals. Jaime and Brienne was one of the first delicious mismatchings Game of Thrones made us love and seeing them together again (along with Bronn and Pod) was fun and refreshing and truly motivating on a thematic level. These two characters still are who they are and will not change just because we want them to as an audience.
Brienne makes it quite clear that she’s still fighting for the Starks and that may eventually put her at adversarial odds with Jaime, who gives her a chance anyway! The two clearly respect each other and that is an admirable quality for the broken toenail of a human that is Jaime Lannister. We’ve been conditioned to believe Jaime is some sort of savior and hero and I do believe he’s come a long way from the man who pushed Bran out of a window, setting all of these events into motion. He has a level of compassion now that wasn’t there before but ‘No One’ tells us (not shows, as would have been more nuanced) that Jaime would still push Bran out of that window if those events took place today. He threatens Edmure Tully and admits his love for his sister that rings with a truth we haven’t quite heard from the character before. When Edmure “takes back” his family’s castle and gives it over to the Lannister/Frey horde, it is because he believes Jaime will do anything to get back to his love, Cersei. It’s ham-fisted and on the nose but it works. Though, when Jaime sees Brienne and Pod escape via river and they share a look of understanding, I groaned at the wanting in both their eyes but understood the motivations and needs for the characters. It was just a little silly.
Across the Narrow Sea, Tyrion tries to explain drinking and joking to both Grey Worm and Messandei. In one of the funniest scenes of the series, Tyrion gets Grey Worm to tell a joke and drink wine and we all laugh and enjoy these characters enjoying their likely last enjoyable times together*.The Masters are a-callin’ and catapulting fiery projectiles into the city and pyramid of Meereen. Grey Worm proves his superiority over Tyrion and calls the shots in what will be the city’s defense but his actions aren’t given the chance as The Mother of Dragons arrives back on set. In yet another badass Breaker of Chains moment, Dany comes striding in to the top keep of the pyramid as her dragon looks to begin striking fire upon the ships below.
*We also get Tyrion’s look into the warless future as he wishes to own a vineyard and give his special wine to his closest friends. An actual sweet moment.
As fun as all of this episode was, it doesn’t strike as deeply as many other, less “eventful” entries. ‘No One’ does this sort of thing better than many other series could, as there’s still plenty of meat to chew on between the bad jokes and blood-letting. It’s just that the meat is swallowed up by the fatty nature of letting us eat our cake. Many scenes come off as overly hammy and unintentionally comical and we’re all just waiting to see the Bastards come to blows next week. Again, all of this is crucial to us loving and lamenting the losses of our characters in the end. It’s just part of the cycle. I truly loved ‘No One’ as an experience but glad that these sorts of moments only sprout in short bursts of blood. Enjoy your ice cream, you’ve earned it.
Now, go to bed.
“We shouldn’t argue about politics.” – Jaime Lannister
- Was this Game of Thrones‘ most vile episode yet? So much cursing and wanton sexuality and balls and ass-grabbing.
- Plus! Hound-Cock! This sort of thing has become a meme at this point.
- Where is Varys going? Did I miss something as to why he’s leaving?
- What was the rumor that Cersei mentioned in The Red Keep? Did I miss something again?
- How Terminator-esque was that Waif chase? It was even matched with doomed music and T-100-style arm-running.
- Seriously, that water dump on the steps during the chase. It was practically a vaudeville act.
- Was getting into Riverrun actually that easy? Letting Edmure go needed Jaime’s prodding to work but still…
- Can we get more Bronn and Pod? Please?
- How badly did this episode hint at Lady Stoneheart? I don’t think it’s happening…
Check out my reviews of previous episodes of ‘Game of Thrones’: